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Tightenings in pregnancy - Don’t ignore the signs

Pregnancy can be so simple for some women but for others it may be more complicated. One thing that a lot of women expect in pregnancy are Braxton Hicks contractions or tightenings. The question is ‘Are tightenings in pregnancy normal throughout you’re pregnancy?’

The quick answer is yes they are normal throughout pregnancy and can start as early as 6 weeks into your pregnancy. They can be felt as cramps early on, however they are usually not felt until you are in your second trimester, if at all.

Braxton Hicks (tightenings) are when the muscles of the uterus tighten for approximately 30-60 seconds, and sometimes as long as two minutes. They are often triggered when the baby is active or if someone touches your tummy.

Tightenings in pregnancy are also known as practise contractions as it is your bodies way of preparing you for the real thing. The difference between tightenings in pregnancy and actual contractions are the frequency, severity and whether they are changing your cervix.

Sometimes it can be hard to decide whether you are having Braxton Hicks tightenings or contractions as they can be quite uncomfortable if they are extreme. This is especially true if it is not your first baby.

If you are unsure at any time then you need to see your medical practitioner.

Tightenings or Braxton Hicks signs:

Tummy goes hard No regular pattern Often felt at night when you are tired No change in your cervix Taper off and then disappear


Regular Painful Pattern is forming Changes in your cervix Pressure in your pelvis Strong on palpating (touch) Stop you in your tracks

As I said before there are extreme cases where tightenings can feel very severe and you may think you might be having a miscarriage or going into labour. Instead of just waiting to see what happens, you need to be pro active and get checked out.

Causes of threatened labour

Urine Infections

Urine infection or UTI’s can effect around 1-4% of pregnant women ( and they can sometimes go undiagnosed until you present with strong tightenings. What can happen in pregnancy is that your lovely pregnancy hormones can kink the tubes (ureters) which lead from your kidneys and go to your bladder. This kinking effect can cause back flow to the kidneys causing urine and bladder infections.

Between 6-24 weeks of pregnancy, the increasing weight of your uterus, as it grows during pregnancy, can block drainage of urine to the bladder. This can also cause a UTI.

Symptoms of UTI (Urinary Tract Infection) Persistent urge to urinate Burning sensation Cloudy urine Pelvic pain Strong smelling urine

BV (Bacterial vaginosis)

Around 10-30 percent of pregnancy women contract BV during pregnancy. It’s the result of an imbalance of the normal bacteria in the vagina. BV isn’t a sexually transmitted infection, but it is associated with vaginal sex.

Symptoms of BV (Bacterial Vaginosis)

Vaginal itching Unusual smell Vaginal discharge Burning sensation when going to the toilet

Both of these infections can cause you to experience strong, painful contractions if left un- diagnosed. They are treated by a simple dose of antibiotics and your symptoms will be relieved very quickly.

Braxton Hicks tightenings in pregnancy may make you feel very uncomfortable. The best thing to do is listen to your body, change your position, rest, hydrate and treat yourself to a relaxing bath.

If none of these steps work then contact your medical practitioner or midwife.


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